“Surprise,” yelled Kirin as she flung the door wide. In her arm she held a smallish box, wrapped in satiny white paper with a wide red velvet ribbon and bow.
Perry spun toward the door, sending a wavelet of shaken-not-stirred onto his ever-so-slightly-off-white cummerbund. In the instant he took to recognize her he had calculated the amount of time needed to reach each an exit, and the specific amount of pressure he would have to apply to snap her neck. He was drastically wrong on all counts—but math never was his subject.
He frowned at her. “I’ve asked you not to do that. It makes people a little jumpy,” he gave her an overdone wink, “in my line of work. What’s in the box?”
She crossed the room, swiveling around the cluttered décor of the room. She often teased him about his jumbled condo by telling him where they could put some of these things when he finally asked her to move in. She never let on that all the suggestions involved a trash heap, or that she brought these things up precisely to stop him from asking her to move in.
“I just don’t understand you, Perry. We’re in the same,” she copied his exaggerated wink, “line of…”
“Shh,” he put his fingers to his lips and glanced about furtively. “I’ve told you-call me Peregrine. What’s in the box?”
In the dictionary of body language there are several entries listed under ‘Sigh’. Some are light and frivolous, conveying a blissful sense of contentment. Others can, in a remarkably concise timespan, tell the recipient precisely how close they are to being throttled-Kirin used one of these.
“Perry, I refuse to call you by your codename in the privacy of…”
“It’s not just my codename, anymore. I’ve petitioned to have it changed. What’s in the box?”
She decided is wasn’t worth the effort to explain the dangers of making your codename public. Let it go, she thought, the agency won’t approve it anyway.
“Aren’t you going to help me with my coat?” She turned her back and waited for him to remove it from her shoulders.
After a long pause she felt his hand reach around and lightly brush her breast. She sighed again, and knowing full well what the answer would be, and that it wouldn’t be the answer she wanted, she asked anyway. “Are you feeling me up or frisking me?”
“You can’t be too careful.” He took her coat and tossed it onto a beautiful, but uncomfortable-looking chair that as far as Kirin could tell had never fulfilled it’s purpose as a place to rest. “What’s in the box?”
“Your birthday present.”
“Wow. That is a surprise.”
“Do you mean to tell me you couldn’t figure that out? What fooled you-That I’m celebrating it on your actual birthday, as opposed to the plus or minus six months you subject me to? Someone should let the agency know about your amazing detective skills”
“I told you,” reaching for the box, “I do that to keep you guessing.”
She snatched the box away before he grabbed it. “You can open it after dinner-it’s being delivered in a few minutes.”
“Let the doorman bring it up.” He gave her that goofy smile that she wished he’d use more often.
“Fine,” she said as she held out the wrapped box to him. “I hope you like it.”
His fingers traced the folds of the paper. He felt the smooth ribbon, and ran his fingers through the elaborate bow. He gave the box a gentle shake and held it to his ear.
His smile vanished and his eyes went wide. Her arms windmilled as he shoved her backwards, and she narrowly escaped falling over the Lucite coffee table. It took only three long strides to cross to the balcony-where he threw the box over the edge.
Kirin’s mouth hung open as she watched the box it had taken her half an hour to wrap dissappear over the railing. “What in the hell. . . ,” her question was cut short as Perry slammed closed the impact-resistant glass.
In a frantic rush that failed completely to look debonair he rushed back at her. He knocked her to the ground taking cover behind the black, Corinthian leather sofa. As he came to rest on top of her he pressed a damp cloth over her mouth.
“So dear,” she heard him say, as a mediciny smell worked it’s way into her consciousness, “how was your day?”
* * * * *
When light crept back into her head, Kirin opened her eyes to find herself tied to the previously unused black chair. She tried to lean forward and found her armed cuffed behind the back of the chair, which caused her breasts to jut forward. This chair is as uncomfortable as it looks.
Perry sat across from her, comfortably slumped into the leather sofa. His foot twitched nervously.
“This night just got interesting.” She smiled mischievously. “Do you mind if we eat first? You may need your strength.”
“You’ll be answering a few questions, first.”
She rolled he eyes. “You’ve got to be kidding.”
“What was in the box?”
“Are you really this. . .,” she tried to roll her eyes further back into her head, but they wouldn’t cooperate. “It was a present. If you want to know what it was, you may need some of those sterling detective skills. I doubt it survived a twenty story fall.”
“Kirin,” he stopped and really tried to glance nonchalantly. “A ticking box can only mean one thing. . .”
He slowed his voice. The same way he did around kids, dogs and hearing aids. “No. A bomb. What I can’t figure out is why you would try to kill me.”
She raised her voice. “What I can’t figure out is why you have me. . . bound to a chair. . . and the only thing you can think of is a box that you threw out the window.”
“You can’t be too careful.”
“So you’ve said.”
“What was in the box?”
“A nuclear bomb-no, a metronome-or, was it maybe a watch? Hmmm, all those tick. I guess we’ll never know.”
“Don’t be sarcastic.”
“Why on earth not?”
“It isn’t becoming. It makes you seem mean.”
“I’m trying to be mean, you dolt. I came up here to have a nice evening with a man, not a caricature.”
“I don’t understand.”
“That doesn’t surprise me.”
“What does that mean?”
“Nevermind. . . I’ll tell you what. If you come over here, I’ll tell you what was in the box. I’ll whisper it in your ear. Then we can get on with our evening.”
“Finally,” he said almost leaping to his feet. “A confession.”
“Come closer. . . closer, Perry. . . you really don’t know what was in the box, do you?”
“I have no clue.”
“I couldn’t have said it better myself.” She snapped a handcuff on his wrist, and before he could react put the other one on the black, metal tubing of the black chair.
She stood up and turned back toward him. The confused expression on his face left her infused with contentment. She gently pushed him down into the chair and leaned over him. “And, Perry,” she whispered into his ear, “when a woman tries to give you a present, you’ll have a much better time if you just accept it.”
She spun away from him, grabbed her coat flinging it over her shoulder. As she walked to the front door, a pronounced strut worked its way into down her body.
She opened the front door to find a very surprised doorman about to knock.
“Are you looking for Mr. Haypence?”
“Come right in. I, however, will not be staying.”
He turned and watched her leave before entering. When he entered he saw Perry struggling to get the key into the handcuff around his wrist.
“Mr. Haypence, I have a package for you. . . another tenant found it in the street.” In his hands was what once might have been described as a smallish box, nominally wrapped in a white paper with an oily sheen and cacophony of smudges, surrounded by a tattered and shredded, filthy, red ribbon. “Where would you like it?”
Perry stared at the box, but didn’t respond.
“Mr. Haypence? Where would you like the box?”
“Do you know what’s in it?”